Live Review: Sunset Rollercoaster @ The Roxy (November 3, 2022)
Nested just on the tip of the historic Sunset Strip in Los Angeles is a theater that feels like a sort of anomaly. A venue of days past, the Roxy has hosted gigs such as Neil Young, Chaka Khan, and Bob Marley, making the venue an unofficial historic landmark in the LA live music scene. Meanwhile, the surrounding neighborhoods have continued to grow and grow in size, while the humble Roxy maintained its comparably small 500-person capacity throughout the years, giving fans a unique and intimate experience that’s not to be forgotten. However, while the Roxy may not have grown in size, its featured guests have drawn consistently sold-out shows, keeping the star power consistent—if not steadily increasing—throughout the decades. It’s no wonder, then, that the Taiwanese soul-psych band Sunset Rollercoaster chose this as the spot to end their EU + NA tour.
Formed in Taipei back in 2011, Sunset Rollercoaster started with trio Tseng Kuo-Hung, Chen Hung-Li, and Lo Tsun-Lung, and has since grown in size (adding on Wang Shao-Hseuan, Huang Shih-Wei, and Huang Hao-Ting) as well as popularity. The group has since released three studio albums along with numerous EPs, and though their sound has evolved over the years, their signature funky, groovy, jazz-inspired style has widened their popularity past Asia and into a worldwide phenomenon.
What sets Sunset Rollercoaster apart from their contemporaries is how their music can perfectly blend the nostalgic city pop aesthetic with the pulse of modern indie, harkening back to decades of that defining new wave music that makes summer days shine and heads bob to the groove. It also helps that the band itself is pretty talented, with the classic guitar/drum/bass lines being amplified by saxophone, synths, and harmonies which elevate and enhance their live shows.
Needless to say, their November 3rd show at the Roxy (opener Michael Seyer) made no exceptions in showcasing their talent. Even before the curtain was raised, the energy they carried was palpable throughout the room, as if everyone knew they were in for a good time. And as the first notes of their setlist began to play, it was made abundantly clear that Sunset Rollercoaster was here to have fun. Their chemistry and charisma were more than evident, with riffs and solos swapping back and forth between moments of group synchronicity. Performing in this kind of hypnotizing flow made their entire set nothing less than alluring. Lyrics were sung, guitars were shredded, song requests (and heckles) were shouted out in Mandarin, and memories were made for all.
If I’m being honest, I wasn’t the biggest listener of Sunset Rollercoaster prior to this concert (most of my Spotify listens for them were likely made the week before the concert itself), but seeing them live changed the game for me, and made them one of my new favorites. While their retro easy-listening sound makes them good for soundtracking a nighttime cruise, seeing them play in person instead of on a playlist puts it in a whole new context. The tracks are 10% faster, 50% funkier, and 110% more charismatic; I myself couldn’t help but dance and groove along to each song, from their unexpected cover of “ 我是一隻魚,” to their all-time classic “My Jinji.” It was like I was hearing it again for the very first time, and made their entire discography that much more eclectic and impressive. It’s a brand new experience, and more than worth it for anyone who’s been a fan of their music. If it can turn someone like me from a moderate fan to a mega fan, I’m sure it can do the same for anyone.
The night ended with a performance of “Candlelight,” the last track of their latest studio album Soft Storm, with a restful tribute and a humble thank you from singer Kuo-Hung Tseng for an amazing tour. The venue, the crowd, and the fact that this was their last show of the tour made their goodbyes, and their entire performance, all the more special—guaranteeing that Sunset Rollercoaster will be on the minds of everyone here for years to come. I’ll be there too, still grooving along.
If you live in Australia, you can still catch Sunset Rollercoaster on their Australia tour in early December, and don’t forget to listen to their latest compilation album, Infinity Sunset, with features from Layton Wu, Michael Seyer, Phum Viphurit, O3ohn, and more.
Special thanks to Maddie Chang for the opportunity. Header photo courtesy of Sunset Music Productions.
Jacob Ugalde is a writer, musician, and pasta enthusiast based in Los Angeles, California. A jack-of-all-trades kind of type, Jacob works in many different fields, from computer programming, to visual design, to film production, to music making, to whatever else he can get his hands on. His favorite musicians are Phoebe Bridgers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Vulfpeck, Luna Li, and Louie Zong, and his favorite video game is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. He thanks you for reading this all the way to the end!